Big 12: Ernst Brun Jr.

The John Mackey Award, given annually to college football's top tight end, released its annual watch list on Tuesday, but only one Big 12 player made the list.

Baylor's Jordan Najvar was the only Big 12 representative on the 37-man list, and he caught 10 passes for 80 yards and a pair of touchdowns last season.

Still, the Big 12 had three quality tight ends who didn't make the list, which is a definite surprise. Texas Tech's Jace Amaro is the biggest name from that group. He's the Big 12's most talented tight end, but missed half of last season with a rib injury. He caught 25 balls for 409 yards and four touchdowns. Amaro is still eligible for the award despite not making the watch list, and if he stays healthy, making the list of semifinalists or even finalists is a definite possibility.

Oklahoma State's Blake Jackson isn't a traditional tight end, but neither was Missouri's Chase Coffman back when he won the trophy in 2008. Jackson led all Big 12 tight ends with 29 catches for 598 yards and four touchdowns as a first-year juco transfer. If he can fix his drop issues from last season, he's due for a big 2013.

I'd also have given a nod to Iowa State's Ernst Brun Jr., the Cyclones' leading returning receiver. He caught 26 balls for 330 yards and six touchdowns last season, with all six coming in conference play or against Tulsa. He broke loose for a 69-yard score against the Golden Hurricane in the Liberty Bowl and had his first career 100-yard game.

The tight end position in the Big 12 still isn't what it once was with Coffman, Jermaine Gresham, Martin Rucker and Brandon Pettigrew a few years ago, but it's a lot better than the Mackey Award watch list would indicate.

Weak and Strong: Iowa State Cyclones

April, 16, 2013
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Turnover is an annual tradition in college football, but with that, teams' strengths and weaknesses constantly shift, too. Today, we'll continue our look at the biggest strengths and weaknesses for each Big 12 team.

Next up: Iowa State.

Strongest position: Offensive line

Iowa State's run the ball pretty well lately, and that should be case yet again in 2013. Four starters return from last season's solid offensive line, and they've taken to calling themselves "The Union." That union will serve the Cyclones well after losing only left tackle Carter Bykowski from last year's team in the second half of the season. Center Tom Farniok has shown tons of promise early in his career, and the junior will be flanked by a pair of seniors at guard: Ethan Tuftee and Kyle Lichtenberg. Farniok, with 26 starts, is actually the team's most experienced player, leading Tuftee by three starts. Jacob Gannon should hold down the right tackle spot. The strength of the line is in the middle, but losing Brayden Burris last year to injury was a huge loss, but the Cyclones adjusted and the offensive line should be a huge strength that makes things a whole lot easier on the skill positions, which are much stronger at running back than in the passing game.

Weakest position: Receiver and/or defensive line

You can't really pick between these two, where a whole lot of work is needed for the Cyclones. Three starters and five overall contributors on the 10-man rotation along the defensive line are gone, and starter Willie Scott, a rising senior, is currently suspended after an arrest on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance earlier this month. The unit was improved last season with Jake McDonough and Roosevelt Maggitt holding things down, but finding new talent to fill those voids this season is a tough task.

It might be even tougher at receiver. All three of the team's leading receivers -- Aaron Horne, Josh Lenz and Chris Young -- are all gone, and the leading returning receiver is tight end Ernst Brun Jr. Iowa State's receivers were already quite average, and judging by Big 12 standards, below average. Quenton Bundrage, Albert Gary and Jarvis West headline the unit, which should also get some help from sophomore Tad Ecby.
We'll take a look at some of the Big 12's breakout stars this spring, but we'll move forward with a series today looking at guys who will be stepping into bigger roles this season and what they have to provide for their new teams. Some are emerging from role players into starters. Some are going from starter to star. Some from stars to bona fide superstars.

Let's move on with Iowa State.

Iowa State's spring step forward: QB Sam Richardson

You'll hear some chatter about Grant Rohach once Iowa State officially kicks off spring practice on March 26. I don't quite buy it yet. After Steele Jantz graduated and Jared Barnett transferred, it's clear that Richardson's late-season takeover of the starting quarterback spot was just the beginning for him.

It's not set in stone, though, and even if I don't buy Rohach as a guy who would win the starting job this spring, poor play by Richardson in the fall may force Paul Rhoads to yet again dig into his bench to search for answers. The quarterback spot has spelled trouble for Rhoads, which really does make Iowa State's streak of three bowl games in four seasons under Rhoads even more amazing. ISU just can't seem to find any consistency at the spot, but you'll have to show some grace early on when it comes to numbers. Richardson won't be getting much help in the immediate future, so you'll have to trust Rhoads and offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham's assessments more than just his raw numbers.

Iowa State's top three receivers -- Josh Lenz, Chris Young and Aaron Horne -- are all gone, and Richardson will have to rely on undersized jukebox Jarvis West and tight end Ernst Brun Jr. when practice begins. Will more targets emerge? They'll have to if Richardson is going to put up respectable numbers compared to his Big 12 counterparts. Look for Quenton Bundrage and senior Albert Gary to make a few plays. Richardson's got a lot to prove this spring, and one solid performance against Kansas, one of the Big 12's worst defenses, isn't enough to assure him much. He struggled mightily in the bowl game loss to Tulsa and couldn't string together completions against even West Virginia, though he did toss three scores and no interceptions. He completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes in two of his three starts, and he'll have to take steps forward this spring to get that percentage closer to 60 on a consistent basis in the fall. Iowa State needs it.

See more Big 12 spring steps forward.

The All-Big 12 Bowl Team

January, 10, 2013
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The Big 12 had nine teams in bowl games this season, and here is the best of the best in the Big 12's postseason. Let's get to it.

[+] EnlargeDavid Ash
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsDavid Ash's big plays fueled Texas' comeback against Oregon State.
QB: David Ash, Texas: He edges out Clint Chelf because of his game-changing plays in the Longhorns' win against Oregon State. Ash had the best play of the entire bowl season with a crazy escape and acrobatic touchdown pass to Johnathan Gray, and he hit Marquise Goodwin on a 36-yard bomb to put the Longhorns ahead in the final minutes. He finished 21-of-33 with 241 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 22 yards and a score.

RB: Lache Seastrunk, Baylor: Seastrunk helped Baylor rout UCLA with 138 yards and a score on 16 carries in the Bears' Holiday Bowl win.

RB: Glasco Martin IV, Baylor: How many rushers did the Big 12 have this bowl season who had at least 95 yards? Two, and both played for Baylor. Martin scored three touchdowns in the Holiday Bowl and carried the ball 21 times for 98 yards. Heck of a night for the Bears backs.

WR: Darrin Moore, Texas Tech: Moore was the most consistent receiver in the bowl season with 11 catches for 84 yards, keeping the chains moving for the Red Raiders in their Meineke Car Care Bowl win against Minnesota.

WR: Stedman Bailey, West Virginia: Despite playing in a snowstorm, Bailey had the best performance of any Big 12 receiver. He caught eight balls for 121 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It wasn't enough to get the Pinstripe Bowl win, but no other Mountaineer scored a touchdown.

WR: Marquise Goodwin, Texas: The track star's touches were limited, but he had a huge impact. His 36-yard grab with 2:24 to play proved to be the game winner, and he finished with four catches for 68 yards. He also had one carry -- which he turned into a 64-yard touchdown, looking as fast as any player in college football while streaking to the end zone.

TE: Ernst Brun Jr., Iowa State: Brun caught four passes for 102 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown, to get the first-quarter party started for the Cyclones, which scored 17 points in the quarter. The rest of the game was forgettable, but Brun had one of the longest plays of Iowa State's season.

OL: Cyril Richardson, Baylor: The Bears' left guard was a big reason why Baylor had so much success running the ball. Baylor racked up 306 yards on the ground against UCLA.

OL: Lane Taylor, Oklahoma State: Purdue's Kawann Short is a stud and arguably the team's best player, but Taylor helped Oklahoma State rack up 58 points and helped hold the Boilermakers defensive tackle to just one tackle and one sack. Short had minimal impact throughout the game.

OL: LaAdrian Waddle, Texas Tech: The Red Raiders ran the ball well -- on the few occasions they did -- and Seth Doege had plenty of time. Waddle was a big reason why for both.

OL: Lane Johnson, Oklahoma: Texas A&M wrecking ball Damontre Moore declared for the NFL draft before the Cotton Bowl, but credit Johnson at tackle, who helped hold him to five tackles, one tackle for loss and zero sacks, despite Landry Jones throwing 48 passes.

OL: Ivory Wade, Baylor: Those 306 yards rushing for the Bears didn't come easy. Most of them came on the interior, and Wade was a solid presence in the middle of the line.

DEFENSE

DL: Chris McAllister, Baylor: He was one of a handful of guys to hold UCLA's Johnathan Franklin to 34 yards on 14 carries, had five tackles, including two sacks, and batted down a pass to help keep UCLA's passing game grounded.

DL: Alex Okafor, Texas: Okafor is my defensive MVP of the Big 12 bowl season. He gave Oregon State's offensive line nightmares and helped the Longhorns stage a late comeback with 4.5 sacks, five tackles for loss and eight stops. He also forced a fumble.

DL: Meshak Williams, Kansas State: The Wildcats had a rough night against Oregon, but Williams played pretty well with nine tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack.

DL: Terrance Lloyd, Baylor: Lloyd was part of the Baylor gang who helped UCLA have its worst running game of the season. He had four tackles, three tackles for loss and a sack. No zone read for you.

LB: Terence Garvin, West Virginia: Garvin was everywhere for the West Virginia defense, which largely struggled in a blowout loss to Syracuse. He forced a fumble, recovered a fumble, broke up a pass, had two sacks, made three tackles for loss and had 15 tackles.

LB: Tyler Johnson, Oklahoma State: Johnson blew up what Purdue likes to refer to as its "passing game." He made six tackles, had two sacks and forced two fumbles, including a huge hit on Purdue quarterback Robert Marve.

LB: Eddie Lackey, Baylor: Lackey was another part of Baylor's defense that put together one of its best games of the season. He made 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack and five tackles.

DB: Jason Verrett, TCU: Most of Michigan State's night was frustrating in the passing game before some late success, and Verrett was a big reason for those struggles. He broke up two passes, made a tackle for loss and had 12 tackles.

DB: D.J. Johnson, Texas Tech: Johnson made 14 tackles and is on this team for one of the biggest plays of Texas Tech's season. The defense hadn't forced a turnover since Oct. 20, but Johnson picked off a Gophers pass in the final minute with Minnesota driving and the game tied. He returned it 39 yards, helping to set up the winning field goal as time expired.

DB: Jeremy Reeves, Iowa State: Reeves returned a Cody Green interception 31 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter of the Liberty Bowl loss. He had six tackles with a tackle for loss and a pass breakup.

DB: Daytawion Lowe, Oklahoma State: No second-half comebacks for Purdue. Lowe opened the half with a 37-yard fumble return for a score and made seven tackles with half a tackle for loss.

SPECIALISTS

KR: Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech: This one is pretty simple. Grant returned a kickoff 99 yards for a score, giving Texas Tech a 7-3 lead early in the first quarter of its Meineke Car Care Bowl win.

PR: Josh Stewart, Oklahoma State: Purdue faked a punt to keep its opening drive alive but punted on its next set of downs. The always-shifty Stewart delivered a 64-yard punt return, giving Oklahoma State the ball on the Purdue 19-yard line. The Cowboys scored for a 7-0 lead to kick off the Heart of Dallas Bowl rout.

K: Jaden Oberkrom, TCU: He edges out Texas Tech's Ryan Bustin, who kicked a 28-yard winner, for making all three of his attempts, including a crazy 53-yarder for a 16-14 lead with 2:42 to play. He also made kicks of 47 and 31 yards.

P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State: He narrowly edges out Oklahoma's Tress Way (five punts, three inside 20, long of 58 yards, average 49.4 yards) for this award after pinning Purdue inside its 20-yard line on two of his three punts. He boomed a 65-yarder and averaged nearly 53 yards on his three punts. He was more valuable for Oklahoma State because field position mattered to Purdue. It didn't to Texas A&M.

It was a rainy afternoon in Memphis, Tenn., but Tulsa won this rematch with Iowa State in pretty convincing fashion. The Golden Hurricane flipped the script from the teams' first meeting of the season in September, when Tulsa raced to a 16-7 lead after one quarter before being dominated from that point on. This time around, Iowa State grabbed a 17-7 lead after the first quarter before Tulsa took over and clearly looked like the better team.

The loss for the Cyclones dropped the Big 12 to 3-3 in its bowls and improved Conference USA to 4-1 for the second consecutive season.

Let's get to some instant analysis.

It was over when: Tulsa capitalized on an Iowa State turnover with a 1-yard touchdown from Alex Singleton with 1:50 to play in the third quarter. Iowa State scored 17 points in the first quarter (including an interception returned for a touchdown by Jeremy Reeves), but the offense was shut out over the final three quarters. With a double-digit lead and a running game that rolled over Iowa State for most of the game, there was no coming back for the Cyclones.

Game ball goes to: Tulsa running back Trey Watts. The son of Oklahoma quarterback great J.C. Watts, Trey had another big game against the Cyclones but got the win this time with 149 yards on 25 carries. He didn't score, but he did break the Golden Hurricane's longest play from scrimmage all day, a 48-yard run that set up a touchdown. He ran hard and gave the Iowa State defense fits when it tried to bring him down.

Stat of the game: Tulsa rushed for 320 yards and four touchdowns on 58 carries. That was the story. Iowa State looked outmanned and Tulsa simply looked like the better, more physical team. It proved it on both sides of the ball and in the trenches with a strong pass rush and a great performance from the offensive line. That's how you win games.

Second-guessing: Cleyon Laing's self-control. The senior defensive lineman was flagged for a cheap shot late after Iowa State made a third-down stop deep in its own territory while trailing 21-17. Instead of settling for a field goal, Tulsa eventually scored a touchdown on the drive. Coach Paul Rhoads gave Laing a pretty intense lecture after he came to the sidelines, and it was deserved. Not only was it a cheap play, but it was one of the game's biggest plays -- and it never should have happened.

What Iowa State learned: It still has a quarterback problem on its hands, but the offense has other issues too. Sam Richardson showed some promise to close the season, but after a strong first quarter, including a 69-yard touchdown pass to tight end Ernst Brun Jr., he struggled to establish much of anything. Outside of that Brun touchdown, Richardson was just 9-of-20 for 60 yards and an interception. Iowa State didn't have a first down in the third quarter and Brun was benched for Steele Jantz, just as Jared Barnett was in last year's Pinstripe Bowl. Jantz never engineered a comeback, turning it over twice in his final game as a Cyclone. Look for a competitive spring at the position between Richardson, Barnett and Grant Rohach.

What Tulsa learned: It has yet another coach who can win big. Winning the C-USA title was plenty of evidence, but the bowl game provided even more. Todd Graham and Steve Kragthorpe helped build the Golden Hurricane into one of the best non-AQ programs in the nation, and second-year coach Bill Blankenship looks very capable of continuing that tradition after an 11-win season. That tied Graham's 2008 team for the most wins in school history.

Iowa State swamps undermanned TCU

October, 6, 2012
10/06/12
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TCU wasn't at full strength, but Paul Rhoads didn't take very long to get his first win over a ranked opponent in 2012. He did it on the road in 2009 (Nebraska) and 2010 (Texas); last season, No. 2 Oklahoma State played victim. This time, it was a 37-23 victory over TCU, thanks to a strong start from Jared Barnett, selected to move in front of Steele Jantz. Barnett connected on two long touchdown passes in the first quarter and finished with 183 yards, three touchdowns and an interception on 12-of-21 passing.

It was over when: Iowa State defensive lineman David Irving deflected a pass with his face ... and caught it anyway. The 262-pounder caught the ball off his facemask and raced 21 yards for a touchdown to put Iowa State up two touchdowns with 7 minutes, 51 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

Game ball goes to: Receiver Josh Lenz. The Bifocal was in full focus on Saturday, hauling in touchdown passes of 1, 51 and 74 yards to pace the Iowa State offense. He wasn't done. He later threw a 15-yard touchdown pass. More on that later ...

Stat of the game: TCU lost the turnover battle, 5-1, and two came inside the Iowa State 5-yard line, TCU's seventh and eighth turnovers in the red zone this season. Another was returned for a touchdown. Playing without Casey Pachall, the Frogs couldn't afford mistakes like that.

Best call: Facing a second-and-10 on the TCU 15-yard line, Iowa State ran a flawless reverse pass, finished off by Lenz, who found a wide-open Ernst Brun Jr. for the touchdown that put Iowa State ahead, 30-20. A field goal in that situation would have kept it a one-possession game, but the well-executed trick play wouldn't allow it.

What it means: TCU might need to brace for a long season. Iowa State looked like the better team on the field by far, and to this point, the Cyclones had looked like the ninth-best team in the Big 12. Iowa State's defense continues to be underrated around the league, but it frustrated Trevone Boykin for much of the day. Boykin, starting in place of Pachall, who was suspended indefinitely after a drunk-driving arrest Wednesday, finished with 270 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions on 23-of-40 passing. The Frogs badly missed Pachall, and never established a running game without Waymon James, who's out for the season with a knee injury. Meanwhile, Iowa State went on the road and got yet another victory over a top-15 team under Rhoads. He seems to make a habit of that.

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